BB Creams: the bottom line on 'blemish balms'

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The very word foundation once implied heaviness; and while we wanted young-looking skin - more so than ever - most of us realised that masking a face with a layer of immovable colour, which is what most foundations did, piled the years on. To serve us better, and make our skin look convincingly good, some degree of realism was needed: the challenge was to give perfecting coverage without masking skin – more than tinted moisturiser but not as much as regular foundation. More than that, the dream base had to roll on like mercury, be comfortable to wear – moving with skin that still felt supple underneath and free, to protect skin despite no innate occlusivity, even to treat it. In order to survive in fact, foundation needed new reasons for being. And ideally a new name too. Few could have guessed that the answer would come from Germany, via Korea, in the guise of a topical called blemish balm (abbreviated to ‘BB’) that had been created 40 years ago as a post-peel treatment. Or that, once discovered, it would be so popular that many beauty houses would have imitated the original formula with their own versions within a year. In 1968, beauty therapist Christine Schrammek developed the original blemish balm for her patients to use after she had treated them with a skin-smoothing Green Peel. The balm is a hybrid – part ointment, part makeup; it delivered a veil of colour to even-up the skin – which could appear red and patchy – after the peel. Moreover, Schrammek’s balm doesn’t irritate like standard cosmetics could after soft surgery treatments; it actually calms the skin and claims to enhance its repair process, while protecting it from further sensitivity when exposed to sunlight. It’s a workhorse which conceals as it heals; yet it’s as light as egg white. Schrammek prescribed her balm privately for some years before formally launching it in Korea and Japan in 1985 as a standalone commercial treatment. Today, blemish balms account for 13% of all cosmetic sales in Korea, and although the formula wasn’t originally developed with this market solely in mind, its resonance with Asian women is thought to be down to the way it lightens and retexturises darker skins, which can be prone to patchiness. Christine Schrammek’s balm is the prototype on which the new generation of treatment foundations is based. Their shared qualities are to conceal and heal – those are the balms’ heritage benefits. Yet while BB’s are billed as the answer to all your skincare woes in one, there are variations on the theme. Some boast the sort of anti-ageing properties more commonly found in high-tech serums; others contain powerful hydrating qualities, sunblock benefits and/or optical diffusers which allow them to illuminate skin as if from within, smooth and equalise its tone like a primer, and ease away redness while treating it on a deeper level with anti-inflammatory and/or whitening properties at the same time. Blemish balms are a welcome addition to beauty’s base repertoire and many work well: they are the do-it-all bases you can’t be without (especially at the weekend) and beauty badly needed them, but they are not the only bases to offer treatment benefits.



Regular foundation is fighting back with an armoury of new treatment benefits to go with further enhanced shade, texture and finish benefits. The thing to remember about blemish balms is that their coverage is sheer, so if you are after similar treatment qualities but more coverage, touch base with the treatment foundations in MyShowcase's line up. I think you will be impressed by how far skin dressing has come.

James Read Tan BB Gradual Tan - the tanning guru's self-sun treatment and the first one with blemish balm qualities; available in light and medium.

Face Stockholm Tinted Mineral Moisturiser - contains skin-conditioning ingredients and an SPF of 20.

New CID i-Perfection Colour Adjust Foundation - wonderfully creamy and smooth, this is the base to try if you need extra hydration.

T Leclerc Hydrating Foundation - fabulously light, this lets skin breathe and is super easy to blend into skin.